Today’s announcement that Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles has joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar has been big news. As if an arena tour revival of a Seventies rock opera starring Tim Minchin, a Spice Girl and a yet-to-be-found reality show Jesus wasn’t quite odd enough, this latest reveal really adds another level of WTF to it all.
It’s seldom that stunt casting is this genuinely surprising. It’s almost to be applauded. But my first thought was utter dread. In keeping with the theme, it was a practically Biblical test of faith: I wanted to go and see this, but really don’t anymore. Do I love Tim Minchin (pictured) more than I absolutely detest Chris Moyles? Wow, I’ll get a proper ranting blog out of this later, I thought.
Then, over the course of the day, as the rage subsided, the slow realisation: We’re talking about an arena tour revival of a Seventies rock opera starring an atheist comedian, a Spice Girl and a yet-to-be-found reality show Jesus. It’s ludicrous whichever way you look at it. Perhaps there’s bigger things to worry about.
Now, I’m a curious kinda gal, and if it wasn’t for the fact that practically everything about Chris Moyles fills my soul with despair, I’d think his cameo as Herod would be quite a fun turn. It’s definitely got JCS the column inches today, and will get bums on seats, so from a PR point of view, so far so perfect.
I’ve seen Chesney Hawkes in a Barry Manilow jukebox musical, Rhydian off the X Factor as Grease’s Teen Angel, recently sat through Susan Boyle’s life story for five minutes of I Dreamed a Dream… there’s probably very little I wouldn’t see some value, comedy or otherwise, in putting myself through as an audience member in that regard. But the self-styled ‘Saviour of Radio 1’? We’ll have to see. (“I’ll reserve judgement, but I feel a rant coming on,” an actress pal on Facebook remarked today.)
Because there is another issue, and that’s looking at it from a performer’s view. Moyles is neither a singer or actor, and is effectively taking the role away from someone, anyone better qualified for the job. As Liverpool actor Scot Williams said on Twitter earlier today: “Want a successful acting career? Forget Stanislavski & Brecht. Simply be a DJ, a TV Astrologer or Glamour Model. You’ll never fu*king stop!”
Silk actress Frances Barber was more ascerbic: “If Chris Moyes is now an actor does that mean I can play for West Ham?” She later argued that “90% of my profession are out of work. He isn’t.”
So does the casting of Moyles undermine the craft of musical theatre performing? Or, given the task of trying to fill 10,000-plus seats every night, does Andrew Lloyd Webber simply have to pull any and every stunt possible to make this work? Curiosity, no doubt, will get the better of me again on this one. But let us never, ever forget Stewart Lee’s opinion on the Renaissance man of the moment:
(Jesus Christ Superstar plays the Echo Arena for one night only in October)